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Making the transition from in-office to hybrid culture

Making the transition from in-office to hybrid culture

Dec 6, 2023

9 mins read

Future of Work

With Gallup research and Stanford economists confirming that hybrid is here to stay, many companies are making the transition. But how does a company decide which offices to decommission? And what approaches are they using to ensure their employees are feeling connected? 

Shutterstock is one large, global company that’s successfully made the transition to hybrid and remote, with 23 offices pre-pandemic, now down to four destination hubs. 

Recently, we chatted with Ashley Casey, Global Assistant Director of Workplace Experience & Operations, Shutterstock, to learn more about their approaches to making the transition to hybrid. 

Here’s an excerpt from our fireside chat, which you can view in full on our YouTube channel. 

You’ve made an impressive shift from in-office to hybrid and remote, so I’d love for you to walk us through that transition.

Ashley Casey: In the pre-pandemic, like most companies, the majority of our spaces were direct use. However, we found that during the pandemic, our behavior changed, both as a company and as people and we were no longer finding that people wanted to come into the office. The drivers that were bringing people into our spaces or attracting top talent were no longer factors. Knowing this information, we had to pivot and be creative in finding workplaces that met our employees where they were at that moment in time, which meant moving to on-demand coworking suites and pay-as-you-go. 

For context, pre-pandemic we probably had 23 offices; now we are mostly co-working and pay-as-you-go, with destination hubs in New York, London, Berlin, and Singapore. 

So how do you know which offices should be decommissioned and how do you measure and track that process… then, execute effectively? 

Ashley Casey: The way that we assess is by polling and also being engaged with our employees, especially for those of us in the workplace department. We’re on the ground floor. We know our employees. Our employees know us. As far as tracking, we have recently integrated a workplace management software that’s now allowing us to see our full spectrum utilization, so we’re capturing that data and making decisions not on feelings, but based solely on fact, as well as research and market assessments. 

Once we’re ready to pivot to on-demand or co-working, we do that by over-communicating. It’s important to get buy-in about why this is happening and how this is going to affect the employees. 

A great example is our Toronto office, which was around a 14,000ft² direct lease. However, post-pandemic, it just no longer met our needs. People moved away, others who lived close weren’t coming in, and we just found that the team really wanted a co-working space. 

So do you need to educate your employees about the shift from direct office to coworking? It’s not necessarily an easy transition—going to your own office versus adopting a platform or using on-demand tools to book spaces in different coworking offices. 

Ashley Casey: Absolutely. No one can just walk into a new space and be like, “It’s ready!” So once we’re decommissioned and we’re ready to start working with a new vendor and a new company, I schedule a mandatory virtual onboarding session about 1 to 2 weeks before our launch date.

A great example: When we started using Flexspace in Los Angeles or Indianapolis where we piloted it, that onboarding session made people realize that it’s not a scary process at all. So really showing your employees and walking them through the process of how to book a desk and how to book a meeting room, as well as what that looks like from a cost perspective. Then via Slack, we’ll send out the recording as well as any guidance documents as a great reference to have for the future. 

Using what you have at your fingertips and leveraging your relationship with your new vendor, like Flexspace, who creates really helpful Loom videos to help with team walkthroughs, have been game-changers. This makes the transition more approachable and less intimidating, which has really helped with the overall adoption process and overall usage.

Tell us about the feedback that you’re getting from the employees that shifted to co-working and on-demand models? 

Ashley Casey: It’s been interesting and has really depended on where one is looking in terms of region. For instance, in North America, we have found that on average most of our employees only come 1 to 2 days a week, while in APAC regions, they’re coming on in a lot more frequently, anywhere between 3 to 5.

We have had the pleasure of working with several of your teams in different locations. And it was just interesting to see how culturally you can get different experiences in different areas. 

Ashley Casey: Yes. Our work with Flexspace for our Indianapolis team comes to mind! The team loved the experience and loved that they could just pop in and use it as they needed. But it turns out that the team out there is really into rock climbing, which we mentioned to your team, and  I want to say within 24 to 48 hours, Flexspace found a space that had both and put it on the roster. And now, the team has the opportunity for a connective workplace cultural moment, where they can enjoy rock climbing after work or during their lunch break. And those moments are really hard to come by in a hybrid work setting.

Let’s talk about workplace culture for a moment. What are the key takeaways from being able to distribute culture that is not necessarily tied to the four walls of the building? 

Ashley Casey: Managing workplace culture when you’re a global company is extremely difficult because of the many different local cultures. The approach that we take with our workplace team is honing in on individual culture. So, we try to balance the culture of Shutterstock with the needs of the teams in different places.

Once a month, we try to get together as an entire team and do events that are specific and authentic to their culture. So, in Toronto, while we do like to exercise, we actually love to do happy hours. And so we did happy hour and an axe throwing together. While that doesn’t really seem safe, it was a lot of fun. 

Our feedback through polling has been great because employees feel like they’re seeing themselves and they understand that we want to collaborate and build a culture that works for them and is authentic to them, which makes them more motivated to participate. 

I also believe in quality over quantity, so once a month is more than enough, which we have found based on our surveys. 

Speaking of surveys, how do you effectively track and monitor all those feedback points? 

Ashley Casey: That’s been an interesting undertaking of trying to figure that out, but there are a few avenues that we’ve taken, from that integrated workplace management software to very simply being plugged into our employees. 

But polling people through an anonymous-style survey can give you invaluable information. It’s important to us that our employees have input on the culture that they experience, whether they’re hybrid or remote. 

There has been a lot of discussion about whether hybrid or remote is more or less productive. What are you finding at Shutterstock? 

Ashley Casey: I think it really comes down to what you are offering as a company. Employees want great benefits, and that doesn’t just mean good dental. It can be exercise. Or a wellness program. Just to name a couple of “non-traditional” options. Happy people are productive people no matter where they are. 

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